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134742 September 22, 2004


The property in question was owned by Celso Nene Zayco who lost his property when
the bank foreclosed on his property when he failed to pay his account. Then after, the property was
sold to Julieta C. Salgado, the Chairman of the Board of the respondent, Perpetual Help
Development and Realty Corporation (PHDRC). TCT No. 133298 was, thereafter, issued in favor of
PHDRC on January 18, 1985. No liens or encumbrances whatsoever or any notice that the
property had been placed under the agrarian reform laws were annotated at the dorsal portion
Subsequently, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) granted Emancipation Patents to
the twenty (20) tenants on the property from April 28, 1988 to July 1, 1988 on the basis of which
titles were issued in their favor during the period of September 16, 1988 to August 24, 1990. Then
on August 26, 1997, the respondent filed a complaint for unlawful detainer against the twenty (20)
petitioners, who were all occupants-farmers on the property, with the Municipal Trial Court in Cities
(MTCC) of Kabankalan City. The MTC granted the respondents petition.
The petitioners asserted that the MTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
action of the respondent in Civil Case No. 034-97, it being an agrarian dispute between the
petitioners, as patentees, and the respondent; hence, the court a quos decision was null and void.
They contended that the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicatory Board (PARAD) had exclusive
jurisdiction over the action in Civil Case No. 034-97.
The RTC found the petition sufficient in form and substance and directed the respondent to
file its comment on or answer to the petition.
On April 29, 1998, the RTC issued an Order declaring that the case involved only questions
of law and not of facts, and ordered the parties to file their respective memoranda. On May 26,
1998, the RTC rendered judgment dismissing the petition on the ground that the MTCC had
exclusive jurisdiction over the action of the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 034-97 and over the persons
of the defendants therein. The RTC also held that the petitioners failed to file a motion to dismiss
the complaint in the MTCC and even participated in the proceedings therein; hence, they were
estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the MTCC. The petitioners filed a motion for
reconsideration of the decision, but on June 26, 1998, the RTC issued an order denying the same.
ISSUE: Whether the case should have been appealed before the CA rather than the SC?
Whether the MTCC has jurisdiction over the said case?
Whether the court erred in its decision

On the first issue, the court held that the remedy of a party aggrieved by the decision of the
RTC, in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, is to appeal by writ of error to the Court of Appeals
under Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, in which questions of facts and/or of law may be raised by the
parties. However, under Section 2(c), Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, where only questions of law
are raised or are involved, the appeal shall be to the Supreme Court by petition for review on
certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules. However, even if only questions or issues are raised by the
party in his appeal, it should be made to the Court of Appeals and not to the Supreme Court,
unless there are compelling reasons to allow such appeal.
On the second issue, the court held that on the issue of jurisdiction, Section 33, paragraph
2 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Section 3 of Rep. Act No. 7691 provides that
Municipal Trial Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court and Metropolitan Trial Court, have exclusive
original jurisdiction over cases for unlawful detainer. The proceedings in ejectment cases are
covered by Rule 70 of the Rules of Court and the Rules on Summary Procedure. However, such
courts have no original jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian disputes under Rep. Act
No. 6657, as amended, and the Rules of Procedure issued by the DARAB implementing said laws,
which are within the exclusive original and appellate jurisdiction of the DARAB.
The DAR is vested with primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform
matters and shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of
agrarian reform programs. The rule is that the DARAB has jurisdiction to try and decide any
agrarian dispute or any incident involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program. In Tirona v. Alejo, we held that the MTCC has no jurisdiction over an ejectment
case where the issue of possession is inextricably interwoven with an agrarian dispute.
The well-entrenched principle is that the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter of
the action is determined by the material allegations of the complaint and the law, irrespective of
whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover all or some of the claims or reliefs sought therein.
In Movers-Baseco Integrated Port Services, Inc. v. Cyborg Leasing Corporation, we ruled that the
jurisdiction of the court over the nature of the action and the subject matter thereof cannot be made
to depend upon the defenses set up in the court or upon a motion to dismiss for, otherwise, the
question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely on the defendant. Once jurisdiction is vested,
the same is retained up to the end of the litigation. We also held in Arcelona v. Court of Appeals
that in American jurisprudence, the nullity of a decision arising from lack of jurisdiction may be
determined from the record of the case, not necessarily from the face of the judgment only.
The MTCC does not lose its jurisdiction over an ejectment case by the simple expedient of
a party raising as a defense therein the alleged existence of a tenancy relationship between the
parties. But it is the duty of the court to receive evidence to determine the allegations of tenancy. If
after hearing, tenancy had in fact been shown to be the real issue, the court should dismiss the
case for lack of jurisdiction.

In this case, there is no showing that the DAR ever approved the reclassification of the
property. It appears that the reclassification of the landholding was unilaterally made by the
Sangguniang Bayan despite the issuance to the petitioners of Emancipation Patents and transfer
certificates of title in their names over the portions of the landholdings respectively occupied by
The petitioners appended to their petition in the RTC a Certification of the Register of
Deeds indicating that thirteen (13) of the petitioners were issued transfer certificates of title based
on the Emancipation Patents filed with said office, made of record in the Primary Entry Book on
September 16, 20, and 22, 1998; and an LBP certificate stating that eighteen (18) of the petitioners
had made advance payments for the portions of the landholding occupied by them. And yet, the
RTC dismissed the petition and affirmed the ruling of the MTCC that it had jurisdiction over the
subject matter of the complaint.
It is evident from the face of the complaint and the pleadings of the parties and the
appendages thereof that the issue of possession of the subject property was inextricably
interwoven with the issue of whether the Emancipation Patents issued by the DAR to the
petitioners were valid. Under the DAR Rules of Procedure, the DARAB has primary and exclusive
original jurisdiction over cases involving the issuance and cancellation of Emancipation Patents.
Moreover, the respondent claimed possession over the property based on TCT No. 133298, which
had already been partially cancelled by the Emancipation Patents and Torrens titles issued to the
On the third issue, we reject the contention of the respondent that the decision of the MTCC
had become final and executory because of the petitioners failure to perfect the appeal therefrom;
hence, immutable. Neither do we agree with the respondents contention that by participating in the
proceedings before the MTCC, the petitioners were estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the
Since the judgment here on its face is void ab initio, the limited periods for relief from
judgment in Rule 38 are inapplicable. That judgment is vulnerable to attack "in any way and at any
time, even when no appeal has been taken." It is settled that jurisdiction over the judgment cannot
be changed by agreement of the parties or by the act or omission of each of them that will
contravene the legislative will. A party should not be allowed to divest a competent court of its
jurisdiction, whether erroneously or even deliberately in derogation of the law.
In this case, the counsel of the petitioners opted to assail in a direct action the decision of the
MTCC, instead of perfecting their appeal or assailing the decision of the MTCC disallowing their
appeal. The petitioners believed that the decision of the MTCC was null and void for want of
jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action filed therein; hence, they are not proscribed from
assailing such decision in a direct action. The remedy resorted to by their counsel should not
prejudice and bar them from assailing the MTCC decision before the RTC on a petition to annul the
same for lack of jurisdiction. Neither are they estopped from assailing the decision, simply because
they filed their answer and motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over

the subject matter of the action. After all, the only relief prayed for by them in their answer was the
dismissal of the complaint.